It would be fitting if somehow I could craft today’s match preview of Arsenal versus Olympiakos into a Homeric epic. It has everything to make a great epic poem: injuries, intrigue, a weakened hero, a scrappy underdog, an impregnable wall that has been breached, Brad Pitt, some wild-eyed Germans, and Greeks. Unfortunately, I loaned my comic book version of the Odyssey to Joey Barton and he won’t return it: he keeps babbling on about “philology versus philosophy” or something.
So, instead of a poem written in Greek, I’ll just tell you what I know.
First, no one is fit!
Walcott is not fit, he has a minor knee problem. He got a kick, but there is no damage in the knee.
Gervinho is not fit, he has a minor muscular problem that is very, very mild.
Koscielny is not fit, he has an ankle problem which is a consequence of the tackle by Nigel Reo Coker, which was a fair tackle but a bit late. He has a chance to play at Tottenham.
Squillaci is not completely fit, he should be back in the group on Friday or Saturday.
It is unfortunate and we are all very sad at the club that it has happened to such a young boy (Wilshere). The news from the operation is very positive but of course he will be out for quite a long time. It is very difficult to predict how long he will be out, but at least four months certainly.
Benayoun will miss the next week due to a muscular problem. It is the thigh.
Djourou will miss the next week due to a muscular problem. It is the hamstring.
Vermalen is just over two weeks. So it should be after the international break.
Diaby is three or four weeks. So it should be after the international break.
Those are all quotes from Arsene Wenger on the state of Arsenal’s fitness.
I can also tell you that Robin van Persie has scored 17% of his 100 goals in the Champions League. That’s a percentage which is up there with Thierry Henry who scored 18% of his goals (42 of 226) in Europe as well. Of course, that’s not really fair to the other guys like Ian Wright, because Arsenal weren’t consistently in Europe every year for 14 consecutive years — before Arsene Wenger arrived.
Olympiakos for their part have won their first two domestic matches scoring five and conceding three and lost their home opener in the Champions League to a goal from Arsenal Summer loan target, Lucho Gonzales of Marseille. Oly also committed a group high 21 fouls in that game if that means anything to you (Arsenal are the cleanest team in the group with just 7 fouls) and have the highest possession percentage in the Group.
The game is being shown live on Fox Soccer Plus for us North Americans and unfortunately, the replay is also being shown only on FSP. Since today is the first day of school, I can’t take any time off from work and that means that I will be watching the game on replay at 5:30pm at Doyles.
Finally, there are two little weird facts that you should know. First, Olympiakos have not won in England in 9 attempts, conceding 29 goals and scoring just one. And second, did you know that Chamakh knocked them out of the Champions League last year (2010)? With a header, of course.
I can’t find a quote from Arsene confirming that Miquel is actually injured but everyone seems to agree that he is and so that means Perm and Song will play center back, right?
On the one hand, this is a great chance for people who want to freak out and say that Arsenal should have bought Gary Cahill: Arsenal are down to our 5th (or 6th) choice center half! On the other hand, Arsenal have to play Spurs on Sunday and giving some of our players who are still in pre-season form a rest might not be a bad plan.
If you consider that playing center half should be less physically exhausting than center mid, then it looks kind of like Arsene is resting Koz (Arsenal’s best aerial player) and also kind of resting Song.
That means in midfield Arsene will have to choose from Frimpong and The Coq™ to put next to Arteta and Ramsey. Up front I expect Robin to play along side Arshavin and I’m going on a limb and saying that Arsene will play The Ox™.
That’s right you heard it here first, we could see the emergence of The Coq™ and The Ox™ in the Champions League. Or not. There’s a reason why I call this section the Known Unknowns.
As for Olympiakos’ team selection and style of play I find it hilarious that the Beeb doesn’t even list who Olympiakos will pick from today. There’s some clue over on UEFA.com but that the BBC doesn’t even bother looking up who Olympiakos could pick from is a mystery.
Also in my research I found out that the International Business Times will be covering the event live. Why? I have no idea.
And finally, I found this quote from Olympiakos’ manager (Valverde) infinitely fascinating:
Every time we have clubs playing against each other the one that will win is the one which imposes its own style of play and who will do it better. Usually the team that has to change its style for the other is the one that will lose.
I never thought about it but it’s true. If Stoke play throwball-hail-mary and they impose that style on Arsenal, then they win. If Arsenal play throughball-tiki-taka and they impose that style on Stoke then they usually win. Right? Is football really that simple?
So all of a sudden they wake up one mornin’ and the Greeks have gone. And there outside the city walls they’ve left this gift; this tribute to their valiant foes: a huge wooden horse, just large enough to happily contain 500 Greeks in full battle dress and still leave adequate room for toilet facilities? Are you telling me not one Trojan goes, “Hang on a minute, that’s a bit of a funny prezzy. What’s wrong with a couple hundred pairs of socks and some aftershave?” No, they don’t — they just wheel it in and all decide to go for an early night! People that stupid deserve to be kerpowed, zapped and kersplatted in their beds! You know what the big joke is? From this particular phase in history we derive the phrase, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” when it would be much more logical to derive the phrase, “Beware of Trojans, they’re complete smegheads!”
Beware of Trojans, they’re complete smegheads indeed.